Server virtualization technology: K Raheja dives into the deep end

Organizations limit server virtualization technology to non-critical apps; K Raheja however took the plunge and migrated SAP to the virtualized platform.

At most organizations, server virtualization technology implementations are limited to non-critical application areas, with critical apps, such as those from SAP, are often kept away from virtualization. But K Raheja Corp -- India’s largest real estate, retail and hospitality house – thought differently. This organization has not only migrated coreSAP applications to the virtualized platform, but gone the whole hog with BW, SAP Enterprise Portal and SAP Solution Manager as well.

Towards the end of 2010, K Raheja experienced the need for additional data center space for new projects such as the enterprise portal on SAP NetWeaver platform for SAP HR. The server room hosted more than 40 servers for Exchange, SharePoint, SAP and other business applications. These aging servers were highly underutilized but difficult to maintain. The challenge was to meet the growing requirements of the company with limited data center space, UPS power and cooling capacity.

Why virtualization?

With an overhaul on the cards, K Raheja concluded that the best way forward would be a state-of-the-art system that would allow for allocation of IT resources whenever needed. “We wanted an agile solution that would let IT meet the demands of business in the shortest possible time,” says Kamlesh Jain, deputy general manager for SAP at K Raheja.

K Raheja partnered with Orient Technologies and created an implementation plan. Orient Technologies mapped out the server room inventory, which revealed the underutilization of the present resources. K Raheja then carried out TCO calculations for various infrastructure options and finally opted for virtualization. The inventory helped the company decide the order in which applications would be migrated.

Server virtualization technology at K Raheja

3 IBM X 3850 servers with 4 x 6 core CPUs, 96 GB of RAM and 6 NIC cards on each server.

IBM Storage V7000 with easy tearing option with combination SAS and SSD hard disk to meet IOPS-hungry application requirements.

After additional consultation with Gartner, the IT team drafted a proposal finalizing on IBM servers with VMware’s server virtualization technology. It was after comprehensive evaluation that K Raheja opted for VMware vSphere 4.0 Enterprise over Microsoft’s Hyper-V solution. “Apart from being a leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for server virtualization, VMware also has some cutting-edge functionalities other products could not provide,” says Jain. Quick deployment, dynamic load balancing, logical resource partitioning, smaller footprint and OS independence were the key drivers for the VMware selection. The server virtualization technology project began in February 2011 and was completed by May 2011.

Implementation process

Through server virtualization technology K Raheja has consolidated 40 servers into three virtualized servers. For the pilot project, the organization set up a test environment hosting non-critical applications. After the successful migration of these applications onto the virtualized platform, the team migrated load consuming applications, followed by Microsoft Exchange, and finally SAP business applications.

To ensure there was no downtime for business users the team ensured a backup system was in place. “We had a standby arrangement so that if there was any trouble when going live with the applications we could move back to the original setup,” explains Jain.

Project challenges

During the server virtualization technology implementation, two other initiatives were running in parallel. These were an enterprise self-service portal implementation across the organization, and SAP SEM (Strategic Enterprise Management, for legal consolidation) implementation for the finance team. “Our biggest challenge was to ensure these simultaneous implementations did not hamper the existing systems. Any amount of downtime was not permissible,” says Jain. The standby systems were set up as a precautionary measure by the team.

K Raheja is also the first organization to migrate SAP ECC 6.0 EHP 5 on the virtual platform. “Ensuring that these applications worked well was a huge challenge,” says Jain. Hence, prior to migrating the SAP and Exchange applications, various scenarios that could affect the functioning of these systems were tested. “As all the issues were addressed during the tests, we didn’t have to use the standby systems,”  Jain says.

The server virtualization implementation today is managed by the internal IT team. VMware’s central management console is the monitoring tool used by the administrators to manage dynamic load balancing, creation of VMs, and so on.

Server virtualization benefits

TCO calculations on infrastructure upgrade with and without consolidation and server virtualization technology revealed that the virtualization option presented a clear benefit of Rs 82 lakh over three years.

There has been a reduction in IT complexity due to the reduced server footprint. Data center space requirements have reduced, and there is drastic reduction in power consumption as well as cooling needs. High availability, scalability, ease of management, and on-the-fly resource allocation are other benefits achieved. Faster response time for end users has helped improve their productivity.


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